Dew-covered chocolate on Trukhanov Island

I think that every person, every once in a while, must greet the sunrise in a strange place, preferably a beautifully strange place, and perhaps with a breakfast of last night’s champagne leftovers and a bit of dew-splashed chocolate. In the case of Sasha and I, we also had the apricots that some guy dropped off for us after hearing us sing at the beach for a full two hours in the night. I personally believe that few things are better than the phrase – “I like your singing, here’s some apricots as a reward” – from a stranger.

dawn breaks over the Dnipro, and reflects in the windows
dawn breaks over the Dnipro, and reflects in the windows

The sand is not a very comfortable place to sleep. We had blankets and skiing jackets, and with good reason – it was so cool at dawn that you could see your breath coming out in little puffs.

At one point in the night, two guys stood over us and wondered out loud if we were alive. I think they were also the ones who swiped our champagne bottle, but charitably left behind the champagne that was still in the glasses, alongside our wallets and mobile phones. Say what you want about the people of Kiev, and people in general, but it always makes you hate them a little less when they go for your cheap alcohol and leave the valuables untouched.

Even more charming was the money they left behind as “payment” for the champagne, I guess – a neatly folded up single ghrivna with a little coin – 5 kopeeks worth – on top, was lying where the bottle had been.

Either this was the champagne fee, or else they felt bad for two girls who were, perhaps, kicked out of their home and were spending the night by the river.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones out there. The beach of Kiev’s Trukhanov Island was alive with several bonfires, revelers and solicitous stray dogs who would gladly exchange their heart, soul and soulful gaze for a half-eaten turkey sandwich. As dawn broke, lovers in love walked next to the water, occasionally casting amused glances in the direction of two clearly hungover women huddled together for warmth, passing a plastic cup of champagne back and forth.

This is what we looked like shortly after the sun began to rise:

those sunglasses are on for a reason. they're hiding my evil-rabbit-red eyes. i have no idea how Sasha manages to look this good after a night on the cold sand, with roughly an hour of sleep and bottles upon bottles of alcohol. she must have sold her soul to Satan, or something.
those sunglasses are on for a reason. they're hiding my evil-rabbit-red eyes. i have no idea how Sasha manages to look this good after a night on the cold sand, with roughly an hour of sleep and bottles upon bottles of alcohol. she must have sold her soul to Satan, or something.

We hadn’t planned to come out to the beach at night. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made while we were halfway through our third bottle of champagne for the evening. Energized out of our languid stupor by the fabulous idea, we trooped to Sasha’s apartment, announced to her grandmother that we were going to stay at my dacha for the night, grabbed blankets, jackets and contact solution for yours truly. We hailed a car on Maidan and our driver tried to persuade us to abandon our plans.

“It’s cold out there and there are perverts,” he told us. “If you need a place to stay, come over to mine. My grandmother’s around, so no funny business.”

We laughed and paid him way too much money, and got off by the pedestrian bridge across the river.

When I started having doubts about perverts as we trooped across the island, my pumps drowning in the sand, Sasha told me that tonight, all of Kiev’s perverts are at home masturbating and watching old 90’s crime dramas, and none are venturing out onto the beach. It was a long-shot, but I was willing to believe it, because it was a beautiful night, because the stars were out, because birds chirped in the trees, alarmed by our loud progress, because I wanted to sit and sing in the sand, instead of slogging back home with irritable and/or drunk commuters, because the window for doing crazy, random crap get smaller as your responsibilities get larger, because, as Sasha told me, “this is your city and it loves you and sometimes you have to keep a vigil and love it back.”

Sometimes, you can’t allow your life to be ruled by the possibility of perverts. If I had, I would not have watched my city wake up, or seen the morning sun hitting the Ark of Friendship Among Peoples (or however it is you call that thing in English):

friendship looks cool in architectural form
friendship looks cool in architectural form

As we made our way back to the comforts of civilization around 6 a.m., Sasha pointed out that it looks as though the ark was designed to shine brightly for those who are on the river or on the island. And perhaps it was.

There were very determined fishermen out on the bridge whose sporty clothes and lively conversation jarred horribly with our sand-covered, sleepy selves. At the kiosk at the end of a bridge, a saleswoman and her two male friends were fighting fire with fire – drinking cold beer to stave off their own hangovers, and kissing, and somewhere above them there was Vladimir with his eternal cross, watching, I thought.

“Alright, girls?” They called to us as we crossed over and made for Pochtova Square.



9 thoughts on “Dew-covered chocolate on Trukhanov Island

  1. Wow,
    This is brave!!

    I have to say I would be absolutely and utterly petrified. I would be worried about being raped then probably killed, then raped again and then cut into little azeri chunks and thrown into Dnipro. I am sure champagne helps, but still…. wow.

    So I guess, that makes me the type who lets possibility of pervs rule my actions, to be honest.

    If I were dead cut into chunks at the bottom of Dnipro I doubt I would think to myself: Cool, I was free to do whatever I wanted. A bit too late for that, I guess when you are in pieces.

  2. Trukhanov isn’t fancy, but it’s not serial killer central either. It’s just a normal city beach. Having your wallet swiped is much more likely than being cut up into little pieces.

  3. I was thinking that actually, as I read your posting, that a lot depends on where you are, and culturally, I guess more people spend nights on beaches in Ukraine than back home, or here in the UK. I always rely on my instinct, but then again…
    However, I was thinking about pedophilia and how that poor British Mccan couple left their small children sleeping alone in the Portuguese resort. It was a safe place, not a pedophile central either. And it was a nice safe environment. They sat only a few meters away having dinner. And then their little child was gone. And it has been over a year and I guess, nobody will ever know what happened. Am I paranoid? Totally. I am a woman and I am a mother. There is just too much evil in this world. sadly.

  4. I think that when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in the illusion of safety in general. People get raped and killed in their homes all the time. I was attacked in the privacy of my own home as well. The idea that we are safer when we are surrounded by people we know or think we know is, sadly, a fiction. We take chances on people – sometimes it works out well, other times it doesn’t.

  5. That is the precise argument me and my husband have all the time. He says you stand a better chance of being assaulted in the middle of London than on an empty beach at night. I agree. Statistically, probably. But i guess a lot of it is a psychological sense of security. We also talked about it when we considered moving…Husband, a typical Englishman, would love to live in the middle of nowhere. whereas I must have neighbours. I would be terrified at night with only cows to protect me. And yes, statistically blah-blah…still. no way I am living on my own. :)))

  6. This is an arguement I have with my mother-in-law all the time. She like to think that these days there are perverts around every corner waiting to do horrible things. No matter how many times I tell her there were just as many (or as few really) crazies in her day, it makes no difference.

    On a completely unrelated note, I want to know what your secret is. My wife and I also spent part of this weekend passed out by the water and we had the good sense to bring a tent. Yet we looked so rough the next morning, I think my cell phone camera destroyed itself rather than immortalize our hangovers.

  7. Ditto to Kevin, glasses not withstanding you both look ridiculously good, it’s crazy!

    Sounds awesome, though I feel a bit cold thinking about it. 🙂

  8. Sweet report, Nat. There’s something liberating about liminal places and experiences–and knowing how to make the right choices to find them. 🙂

  9. Beautifully written . . . brought back memories of some days and nights I spent on Trukhanov Island. Hopefully, I will get back there soon.

    The Bridge to Trukhanov Island

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